I came out of the closet when I was nineteen.  The details aren’t the kind of thing I’m inclined to share in a forum such as this, other than to say that it was difficult at the time but everything worked out just fine in relatively short order.  I am blessed to have a nutty but loving family, and didn’t suffer anything like the humiliation and abandonment that gays and lesbians often get from disapproving loved ones.  I knew it would be hard, but I also knew it was something I would have to do.  I cannot imagine what my life would look like now if I had tried to hide that part of myself forever, other than knowing it would be a life of misery and deceit.

A few years after I graduated from high school, I spent some time socially with a kid who was still attending school there.  My being openly gay during high school had about the same odds as my developing mutant powers and joining the X-men.  This guy had already come out.  I couldn’t believe he had done it (and still find it kind of shocking), and marveled how much had changed in so short a time.

Now, of course, I expect people to deal with my being gay with a minimum of fuss.  I expect marriage equality to come to the state where I live eventually, and will continue to campaign in support of it.  I expect any potential employer to offer the same benefits to my husband as they would to anyone else’s spouse.  I consider my sexual orientation to be irrelevant to my professional advancement.  If people have a problem with the nature of my family and my relationships, they are welcome to come to terms with it on their own time.

I can say all of this because I am blessed to live in a time and place where homophobia is considered a form of bigotry, at least in the circles where I move.  You’re not supposed to hate gay people any more.  Heck, I’m allowed to think gay pride parades are kind of passé and distasteful, and wonder how the more outré elements reflect on the image of families like mine.  I can be comfortably bourgeois if I wish.

I wonder what kind of courage it took to expect this kind of equal treatment when homophobia was considered nothing but moral propriety.  I wonder at the strength of character required to sue to get your job back when getting fired for being gay was the norm.  I wonder at the fortitude and resilience it took to stand up with a sign demanding that you be treated like a decent human being when everyone around you considered people like you to be perverted and predatory and disgusting.  I wonder what it took to be Frank Kameny.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few prominent people in the gay rights movement, but I never had occasion to meet Mr. Kameny.  If I had, doubtless I would have said nothing that he hadn’t heard thousands of times already.  I would have thanked him for helping to make the life I enjoy today possible.  I would have thanked him for not only knowing he deserved to be treated with dignity and respect, but for actually standing up and saying so.  I know there have been others who fought for our rights back before it was popular to do so, and thus it’s hard to say that things wouldn’t have changed without him.  But because of him, I have a life largely free of discrimination.  Because of him, I don’t have to tolerate being second-class.  I am incredibly grateful for his life and work and courage.  May he rest in peace.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. I’d noted Mr. Kameney’s passing, but I didn’t think it was for me to eulogize him. I’m glad to see you step up to it.

  2. I knew someone in high school who was openly gay (I graduated in 1992), and people treated him mercilessly. I’ll always regret and feel ashamed that I took part in it.

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